If you’re hoping to conceive, don’t leave it to luck. Know how to get pregnant — starting with predicting ovulation and do’s and don’ts for maximizing fertility.
Some couples seem to get pregnant simply by talking about it. For others, it takes time. If you’re looking for tips on how to get pregnant, here’s what you need to know.
How to predict ovulation
Understanding when you’re ovulating — and having sex regularly five days before and on the day of ovulation — can improve the odds of conceiving.
Ovulation is the process in which a mature egg is released from the ovary. After it’s released, the egg moves down the fallopian tube and stays there for 12 to 24 hours, where it can be fertilized. Sperm can live inside the female reproductive tract as long as five days after sexual intercourse under the right conditions. Your chance of getting pregnant is highest when live sperm are present in the fallopian tubes during ovulation.
In an average 28-day menstrual cycle, ovulation typically occurs about 14 days before the start of the next menstrual period. However, each person’s cycle length may be different, and the time between ovulation and the start of the next menstrual period may vary. If, like many people, you don’t have a perfect 28-day menstrual cycle, you can determine the length and midpoint of your cycle by keeping a menstrual calendar.
Beyond the calendar, you can also look for ovulation signs and symptoms, including:
- Change in vaginal secretions (cervical mucus). Just before ovulation, you might notice an increase in clear, wet and stretchy vaginal secretions. Just after ovulation, cervical mucus decreases and becomes thicker, cloudy and less noticeable.
- Change in basal body temperature. Your body’s temperature at rest (basal body temperature) increases slightly during ovulation. Using a thermometer specifically designed to measure basal body temperature, take your temperature every morning before you get out of bed. Record the results and look for a pattern to emerge. You’ll be most fertile during the 2 to 3 days before your temperature rises.
You also might want to try an over-the-counter ovulation kit, which can help you identify when you’re most likely to ovulate. These kits test your urine for the surge in hormones that takes place before ovulation. Ovulation occurs about 36 hours after a positive result.
Maximizing fertility: What to do
Follow these simple tips for how to get pregnant:
- Have sex regularly. The highest pregnancy rates occur in couples who have sex every day or every other day.
- Have sex near the time of ovulation. If having sex every day isn’t possible — or enjoyable — have sex every 2 to 3 days a week starting soon after the end of your period. This can help ensure that you have sex when you are most fertile.
- Maintain a normal weight. Overweight and underweight women are at increased risk of ovulation disorders.
Also, consider talking to your health care provider about preconception planning. He or she can assess your overall health and help you identify changes that might improve your chances of a healthy pregnancy. Your health care provider will recommend taking folic acid a few months before conception to reduce the risk of spina bifida and other neural tube defects.
Maximizing fertility: What to avoid
To improve your odds of conceiving:
- Don’t smoke. Tobacco has multiple negative effects on fertility, not to mention your general health and the health of a fetus. If you smoke, ask your health care provider to help you quit before you start trying to conceive.
- Don’t drink alcohol. Heavy alcohol use might lead to decreased fertility. Generally, it’s best to avoid alcohol if you’re hoping to conceive.
- Curb caffeine. Research suggests that fertility isn’t affected by caffeine consumption of less than 200 milligrams a day. That’s about 1 to 2 cups of 6 to 8 ounces of coffee a day.
- Don’t overdo strenuous exercise. Strenuous, intense exercise of more than five hours a week has been associated with decreased ovulation.
Also, talk to your health care provider about any medications you are taking. Certain medications — even those available without a prescription — can make it difficult to conceive.
When to talk to a doctor
With frequent unprotected sex, most healthy couples conceive within one year.
If you’re age 35 or older and you have been trying to conceive for six months or more, or if you or your partner has known or suspected fertility issues, consider consulting with a health care provider.
Infertility affects both men and women — and treatment is available. Depending on the source of the problem, your gynecologist, your partner’s urologist or your family doctor might be able to help. In some cases, a fertility specialist offers the best hope.
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